Sophomore Slump

Every tour guide mentions that it’s a mile all around – a circular loop conveniently meant for people who get lost easily. I admit it was a bad idea to go for a walk at such a late hour (not 4-in-the-morning late, but late enough to be the only one walking aimlessly around campus) with no pepper spray or trustworthy companion to protect me.

But I had to go. Something about being inside my deserted apartment exacerbated the stifling sadness in the air – made my skin prickle with sweat, leg shaking with the desire of doing something about it.

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Illustrated by Shawn Rosario

Okay, not going to lie – it looked scarier at night. The only inviting thing about the barren path ahead was the interspersed lamp posts lining the curb. I didn’t know what appealed to me more: the occasional strobes of light shining down on me every twenty feet or the concealing blanket of darkness the night provided in between. My cold hands shoved themselves deeper into my pockets the further I walked, my mocassin-covered feet swiftly carrying me up each incline. I wouldn’t have gotten very far if it wasn’t for the music. My scrappy earphones became my armor of protection, distracting my mind from collapsing in on itself, keeping the fearful thoughts out and summoning the flood of tangible emotions from the bottle I’ve kept sealed for the longest time. Turns out – searching for slow, soulful, ballad-like music on Spotify really amplifies the dramatic scenery.

It was around the seventh lamp post when my throat ran dry, chest heaved for deeper breaths, eyes turned misty. I hadn’t cried in what seemed like ages. The few tears rolling down my cheeks felt so refreshing, cleansing my mind of the darkness that made my night walk pale in comparison.

***

If you asked me what was wrong, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

If you reassured me that people were here for me, I wouldn’t know what to do with that information.

All I know is that there’s been this buzzing undercurrent of sadness following me wherever I go. It probably has something to do with the transition of a new school year – living in an apartment, adjusting to harder classes, finding the motivation to work hard and stay on top of things. It also probably draws from the circulating natural disasters, political turmoil, and numerous deaths arising globally too. Whatever it is, it sucks out all the energy and positivity in me time and time again.

My heart hurts for the people around me going through the same thing. It seems as though literally everyone has been swimming in a pool of sadness with no way out. None of us really know what to do or what’s going on, yet none of us is willing to address such an intangible problem either.

Sometimes, my mind tells me that while the sun is still shining and the birds are still chirping, there’s a reason to smile. There’s a reason to wake up and force yourself to see through that foggy haze of depression. You can do it! No time to mope today!

Other times, it tells me that I have too much to do and not enough time to do anything so might as well give up now. An empty apartment, calls sent to voicemail, a blank screen free of notifications. It emphasizes that I have no one to turn to and nothing to live for. And then it makes me go back to sleep in hopes that the next day will be better.

Most of the time, it just goes silent and leaves me with an excruciating emptiness that I can’t manage to fill, no matter how many friends I hang out with, how many Youtube videos I watch, how many sets of homework problems I finish.

“Sophomore Slump” is what they call it. Almost like the youngest-sibling-who-will-no-longer-be-the-youngest syndrome, as a second year, we feel deprived from everything that we were spoiled with as freshmen: lacking motivation, friendship, excitement, meal plans, etc. There’s nothing to look forward to, unless you do something about it.

That’s another thing – it’s just you. More than ever, you’re in charge of how you spend your day, how you handle problems, how you keep yourself accountable for the accumulating responsibilities ahead.

It can be painful. Loneliness is painful. You know you’re surrounded by people but for whatever reason (you don’t want to bother them, they wouldn’t understand what’s going on, you don’t understand what’s going on, etc.) you have to deal with the dull ache in your chest on your own.

Right?

WRROOOOOOng! Like I said, a lot of these things are up to you now. So if and when you’re ready, you should try and take a chance to change things for the better: your attitude, your lifestyle, your appearance (?). This might just be me, but doing something out of your daily routine really helps to put things in a different perspective. Anything, no matter how small, helps (i.e. taking a walk at night). You can bake something new, talk to a new friend, attend a new club, find a new hobby, etc. The worst partner to sadness is idleness and if you can force yourself to get up and be active in some way, you’re already one step ahead of the shadow you want to leave behind. Some days, it won’t work (don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t). Some days, life will continue to pummel you to the ground and it’s still going to be extremely difficult to see the bright side of anything, but trust me, you’ll arrive at the next lamp post eventually. It might take a couple days or months even, but you will make it through. The darkness will always be there but so will the light.

You will make it through.

You will be okay.

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